My poor blog, it’s feeling very neglected at the moment.
It can’t be helped, sadly. I’ve been using all of my words (and time) to frantically try and finish my submission for the RNA New Writers’ Scheme before Freya finishes school for the summer on Tuesday.
To make up for lack of words, I’m sharing some pictures instead. We had a lovely day at Pensthorpe yesterday, including seeing their new Wetland Discovery area. It is always hard to convince Freya to leave the amazing play areas but even she couldn’t resist the beautiful flowers (and a butterfly or 50).
If I was going to run my own travel awards, with categories such as most peaceful caravan location, comfiest bed and best use of fog, out of the three sites we have visited so far, Kelling Heath Holiday Park would definitely sweep the board.
Many people I know had already stayed there so when I booked a trip for my parents and Freya and I (Mark could only come for a day because he had to work) I was confident that it would be good. However, this is the first time I’ve come back from a break with Freya without feeling like I need another holiday on my own to recover.
Some of that is because she is getting older but I also liked the fact that there wasn’t a million different activities for her (and me) to go along to all day and night. She often had to make her own entertainment and while the weather meant it was mostly indoors, I think, had it been warmer (and we could see further than the end of the road), we would have spent a lot more time exploring outside. It was April, though, so you have to take what you can get.
That’s not to say there weren’t things to do, there’s lots. We just didn’t take advantage of all of them. We visited several of the outdoor play areas where Freya made some lovely new friends, there’s also an indoor area with a small soft play section and amusements.
Each day there were scheduled events; one day Freya had her face painted and another she made a mosaic (both cost extra). The only evening we went out was to see the children’s entertainer Stevie Spud who was absolutely fantastic. He had Freya roaring with laughter and she was thrilled when he invited her up to help with a magic trick. He also let her have a go at plate spinning at the end. A highlight for her.
We didn’t go along to any of the outside Acorn Events, which include things such as Kelling Explorers (welly walks, woodland rambles, pond dipping etc) for children aged three – seven. We did make use of the indoor swimming pool (there’s an outdoor one too, although it’s not open in April). I also used the fantastic gym. And all of that is before you even get to the 300 acres of woodland and heathland to explore on your own (there’s bike hire too, if you don’t fancy walking).
So while there are definitely things to do, it seemed less manic than we have been used to on other holidays. I felt like it was a chance to slow down and just breathe.
We stayed in a six-person caravan (two bedrooms plus a sofa bed, if needed) and it was really lovely. There are also lodges and it’s a touring site. Set among the trees, our caravan was so peaceful. Freya spotted deer out of the window on the first morning and there were rabbits and squirrels along with various birds. I’m sure I heard an owl one evening too. It was spotlessly clean and lovely and warm, thanks to the central heating.
While there is an on-site bar and restaurant plus a pizza place, we didn’t make use of it – apart from when Mark came to visit and he and I went for lunch (my cheese toastie was delicious). We either ate while we were out or we used the things we brought with us – and the caravan had a great oven along with a microwave – but we did make use of the shop, which stocks some great products, including a free-from section.
The camp is also ideally situated for visiting other places. We did a couple of day trips, including taking the North Norfolk Railway steam train, which stops at the site, to Sheringham. I’m not sure who was more excited about this, my dad or Freya. He said it took him back to the 1950s when his family used to get a steam train once a year to the beach. It was too rough to go to the beach but we enjoyed exploring the town – and it’s never too cold for ice cream.
We are already planning a return trip. Hopefully the weather will be better – although it could have been a lot worse this time (they were predicting snow at one point) so I won’t complain.
You can find out more about the site, the types of accommodation on offer and what’s on here.
“A family home, not a fortress,” is the quote that popped into my head as I caught sight of Oxburgh Hall for the first time – and, even with its moat and grand-looking gatehouse, it definitely felt welcoming.
In fact, I actually thought it looked rather romantic; in a sort of Gothic, wild on the (in this case very flat) moors, Healthcliff kind of way (I imagine in the summer when they sky is blue and the flowerbeds are blooming with colour, it would be more Mills and Boon).
Surrounded by countryside in the village of Oxborough, the hall is about an hour’s drive from Norwich. We decided to make a family trip with Mark’s parents who were visiting for the weekend (and who have National Trust memberships).
The family have had some turbulent times and very mixed fortunes over the many years since the late 15th Century. At several points the house was neglected, with periods of near dereliction. It was rebuilt after a terrible fire during the Civil War and also survived the threat of demolition in the 1950s. In 1952, Lady Bedingfield gave the hall to the National Trust and it is now, thankfully, protected. It is currently undergoing more restoration work after the collapse of one of the courtyard windows in 2016 identified further problems but it is still open to the public.
What can you see?
Much of the remodelling we can see today is the work of the Victorian 6th Baronet, Sir Henry Bedingfield, and his wife Margaret Paston.
Highlights include the King’s Room, where Henry VII stayed in 1487, embroidered hangings worked by Mary Queen of Scots and Bess of Hardwick (more about them here), the Queen’s Room, the library and the view from the roof.
There is also a much talked about cramped priest hole. It was enough to give the claustrophobic in me nightmares but I know it was a lifesaver in the late 16th century when, in upholding their Catholic faith, the Bedingfelds suffered. The small space, which would have been unlit at the time, was a refuge for a Catholic priest in the event of Oxburgh being searched. One of the guide’s said they could be in there for weeks at a time.
Let’s not forget outside, either. There are about 70 acres, including a walled garden, woodland walks and a den building area.
I really like the way the National Trust caters for their younger visitors. There was a picture treasure hunt for Freya to enjoy inside but also a conservationist set up in one of the rooms (not sure if this was just for March) who explained his job and then let her have a go at cataloguing a tea cup. She was really into it and even drew the pattern on the cup (proud mum moment).
Freya is a proper people person and loves chatting to anyone who will standstill long enough to hear her out. I do think she sees the guides as a captive audience because we almost have to drag her away – luckily they were all very kind at Oxburgh and happy to indulge her (even when it was about the spaghetti bolognaise she had for tea the night before. Sorry!).
Outside there were also work sheets and a bug hunt to enjoy as we strolled around the gardens and made the walk to the chapel in the grounds, which was also open to explore. Mark was also particularly keen to see the pet cemetery (too much Stephen King, maybe?).
My favourite thing.
I loved exploring inside but there was a definite “ooooh” when I spotted the reflection of the hall in the moat. I walked all the way round, taking photos at various points.
At the time of our trip, standard adult entrance was £6.10 (without GiftAid). You can find full details here.
My Top Tip: Don’t forget to visit the church of St John, which you can get to via the hall car park. I’ll be sharing some photos of it for My Sunday Photo this week so please pop back, if you’re interested.